Our First Pairing Event at M6

It seemed like a good idea at the time.  Ever have an inspiration that seems to be the best idea you ever had, only to “re-think” it later?  Ever move on that idea and make it public and then reconsider?  Are you surprised that it has actually happened to me once or twice (or more)?

Earlier this year in the spring, we seized the opportunity to participate in the Tyler Wine Swirl.  Late in the scheduling, a tasting table became open for a winery and we were happy to accept the invitation.  Thanks to Marnelle Durrette (Kiepersol) and Dawn Leatherwood (Pella Legna) for thinking of us!

M6 was then assigned a location.  Each winery was “paired” with an eatery.  M6 was paired with SmallCakes.  SmallCakes is a cupcakery.  John and Becky Reiss have the local franchise in Tyler and would be our neighbor at the swirl.  Anne contacted them and discussed doing “market research” to see if any of our wines paired well with any of their cakes.  I met John at M6 one afternoon when the tasting room was closed.  After introductions, we sat down for some serious business. 

It was very serious, right? Who am I kidding?  We had a blast!  John brought several varieties, but only a small sampling of their menu.  (You have to visit their store on Old Bullard Rd in Tyler to experience the sheer delight!)  We tasted his wedding cake first.  I then chose a sweet wine to match and then another.  The first was ok, but then the second was better!  Hey, we were on to something.  We repeated this process for several samples.  After that I don’t remember much.  Sugar, sugar, sugar!

Anne found out about the fun we were having and broke land speed records to get here.  She hates to be left out of anything FUN.  She samples what we recommended and concurred.  It was official, M6 and SmallCakes paired well together!  It was then that I announced that this would be our inaugural pairing event at M6!  I had spoken! So be it! Amen!

The swirl was a lot of fun being next to John and Becky and meeting so many nice folks.  SmallCakes and M6 made a good team.

Anne is not one to let me forget about things I say.  She reminded me regularly about the pairing event.  Uneeta plan it.  Ugotta set the date.  Weneeta create the event.  (refer to the Anita’s imaginary family blog if you don’t recognize these words).  After a few weeks, the plan was in concrete.  We were doing it whether it was a good idea or not!  Now was a heck of a time to actually think through the details. 

I was familiar with pairing wine and savory foods.  Also pairing with chocolate.  However, pairing wine with sweets is a daunting task.  If the food is sweeter than the wine, the wine will taste flabby or overly tart.  What was I doing!  What is sweeter than cupcake icing?  Was the research flawed?  Was I setting up to make M6 wine look awful?!?!  Like I said.  Now was a heck of a time to plan it out.

The event was held and in spite of ourselves, everything went very well. Many people expressed their skepticism and did not participate, others came and were pleasantly surprised. It was a very nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon with wine, cake and friends; new and old.    

We ended with a sampling of our next pairing event; wine and cheese! Cheese is a much more traditional pairing event. And we gave a "teaser" that afternoon with an aged Asiago and our newly bottled Cabernet Sauvignon from Lodi, CA.

Watch for the details upcoming.

Two years ago I decided to change my lifestyle for healthier living.  In other words, I needed to lose weight.  Since then, I have been conscious about what I eat.  It is not much fun, but I am doing it.  Losing 50 pounds takes a lot longer than gaining it.  I mention this to explain in advance that I did not partake of the cupcakes during the whole pairing.  I was proud of myself! 

I tend to over plan and we had cupcakes left over.  It is better than running out.  We cleaned up and relaxed.  Anne and I had a private pairing and shared the mini SmallCakes.  They were delicious as always!  Still proud.  It was just a small bite of each.  Anne left for home (I thought) and I stayed back to finish up. 

One of my many shortcomings is that I am not disciplined enough to eat a small amount of anything.  It is much easier for me to abstain completely than to “just have a bite”.  Anne and I shared “just a bite” of each cake and it was nagging at me.  I was to bring home the leftovers.  I decided to have “just one more”.  Things escalated.  I heard a noise just in time to face a camera with the proof of my actions.  

No longer proud.  I’ll be fasting tomorrow…

Market Research

As the Barrel Turns...

The M6 marketing director and I went out to research the other businesses; how they handle customer service, attention and detail.  We went to a breakfast venue in Austin Texas.  This was a busy spot, budget price, and a reminder of times past.  (In other words, we were hungry for breakfast and I did not want to spend much).  Vinyl booths, busy carpet to mask stains and a dull roar of satisfied conversation permeated the room.  Contentment was prevalent – except in the waiting area.

We are accustomed to waiting for a table at Austin area eateries.  I have to wonder why I am willing to wait in a crowded room to purchase a product.  Why don’t they cater to me?  The food and service either must be over the top great, or it is cheap.  With me today, it is the latter.  As we waited, I became aware of the mood of the room. 

We have all been there.  We choose the place and drive up without a reservation.  We immediately assess the number of cars in the parking lot.  I notice cars dropping off passengers.  Under the pretense of being considerate gentlemen, they are really rushing to get on the list before me. 

I scan the lot for open parking.  I calculate that I can park and still beat the retired couple who are waddling toward the door.  I accelerate across the lot and the doors fly open as I slide to a halt.  We goose step with large strides trying to appear casual as we rate to overtake the other contestants.  Of course we always walk like that!

Alas, I resolve that we are beaten and I graciously reach to open the door for the couple.  I may be slightly competitive, but I am a gentleman, after all.  As I reach for the door, seemingly accidental and without the slightest glance my way, the flash of a walking cane firmly plants between my feet.  The skill was akin to that of Errol Flynn deftly parrying his sword as Robin Hood. 

The “sweet” lady then looks my way as if startled by my presence.  The expression and smile on her lovely face told me that she did not see me coming and she appreciated me holding the door.  Either that or ‘Watch it buster.  I know how to use this thing and I’m not afraid of you.  I can send you to the ER and make it look like an accident.’

Anne gives our name to the hostess who acknowledges our second-place finish behind the great-grandparental figures.  We take our place among the anxious hungry.  The atmosphere is thick with anticipation.  30 or so people have all been told that there will be a “20-minute wait”.  Anne mentally catalogues each group and prepares to protest if any later arrival gets a table before us. 

Few speak; only whispers.  There is no eye contact, most stare at the floor or covetously at the occupied tables covered with eggs and pancakes.  With the perceived pace of a sloth, names are called which reduce the congestion ahead of us.  Thought bubbles appear over the heads of the despondent.  Thoughts such as; “I hope I get my table before you”, and “If you were not here, I would get the next table”, and “If you are not hungry, can I go first?”.  One skinny chick looked at me as if she was thinking, “You have not missed many meals.  You need to skip this one and go home!”

Instead of banning together to plot against the real enemy, those taking their sweet time at their personal feed trough, the waiting room is futilely (mentally) jockeying for position.  The hostess enjoys her authoritative control so much that she probably works for free.  Twinkling eyes and a lipstick smile hides her true dictatorial disposition.  Only the uninformed dare to approach her and ask ‘how much longer’.  The seasoned veterans among us smile inwardly knowing that such bold individuals are moved to the bottom of the list and get a 20-minute penalty for questioning the commandant. We just moved up a notch!  I consider pulling out a $20 for favorable treatment until I realize why I chose this place.  Our whole breakfast will be less than $20.  Frugality always gets my attention.

Eyes focus on a couple that has finished and are now sipping their 3rd cup of post meal coffee.  Their return look was one of satisfied entitlement.  I think I hear her say “I can stay here as long as I want.  I think I’ll have a look at the lunch menu now.”

Another name is called and feelings of exultation sweep over the contest winners.  The rest of us jeer disgust and frustration.  When our name is called, we bow and I prepare to make a speech thanking all who made this moment possible.  Anne grabs me by the arm for stability.  She has been getting faint for lack of nourishment.  She sneaks a sausage from a distracted patron as she glides past.  We proceed to our spot at the feed trough with great anticipation.

I have been trying to eat healthy meals for the past couple of years.  After this wait, I am looking for the Hungry Man’s Special Platter.  We eat, coffee and take our deserved bonus time at the table.  We lament overeating; AGAIN.  We waddle to the car, drive away sleepily and then remember our task of market research.  Next time, I must stay focused!

Anita's Imaginary Family

As the Barrel Turns...

My name is Joe.  It’s just Joe.  It’s not Joseph or Josiah or Josephus or Josephine; just Joe.  I’m a simple man with a simple name.  Mother and Daddy gave it to me because they knew that I was going to be simple.

Over the years, many of us get nicknames.  As kids we get names from friends.  Grandparents, girlfriends, coaches and parole officers are good sources for nicknames.

Spouses are the most particular and creative source.  Anne has called me by several monikers over the years.  A few might possibly have even been nice and respectful. I usually do not care what she calls me as long as she does not call me late for dinner She often calls me Joseph.  To which I respond, “Yes, Anneseph?”

Anne is always meeting new people and adopting them as a new best friend.  She talks about people all the time and with familiarity.  Many of her new discoveries I do not know.  Sometimes I feel like she brings them home like a stray.  It seems that I am supposed to know about whom she is talking and about what.  Needless to say, I have exploited my “hearing deficiency” as expected of a man my age.  Some call it selective hearing.  I often get falsely accused of “ignoring”.... believe it or not.

Lately, I have a new name.  This is why:

I am not sure when I first heard of the “Neeta” girls.  I never met them, but it seemed that Anne was in daily contact with them.  They appeared to be a set of triplets and a neglected older sister.  The triplets were Uneeta, Ugotta and Weneeta.  The older sister was Anita.  They must come by the house often when I was at work because much of their subject matter involved our home and our business.

I did not hear much about Anita.  I usually heard about Uneeta or Ugotta.  I got regular updates on those two. I heard about them several times each day.  Once a day I might have heard about Weneeta, but I thought it was really about Uneeta.  I rarely heard about Anita.  Uneeta, and Ugotta were very ambitious.  They were doing so many things to help Anne around the place.

The day of reckoning came just before dinner one evening. That’s when I realized that I was supposed to be paying attention.  It hit me like a brick (maybe it was a brick).  Anne had mentioned to me that Uneeta was doing something earlier in the day.  She then repeated it at lunch and again over the phone that afternoon.  At dinner, she looked at me like I was stupid and asked why I was ignoring her.

I was astonished and asked for her patience as I tried to calculate what I had done wrong. (I should be pretty good at that after 38+ years).  I responded in a sweet voice “I’m sorry, Honey, whatever do you mean?  I always want to please you in everything I do.” (At least that’s the way I remember it).

She looked me in the eye and talked slowly as to a child.  Our conversation went something like:

Anne:     “Uneeta replace that light bulb in the kitchen.”  (I wondered at her grammar, but did not comment)

Joe:         “Great, I appreciate that.”

Anne:     “What?”

Joe:         “When?”

Anne:     “Replace it now, if it is not too much trouble.  The bulb has been out for 3 days.”

Joe:         “That’s nice.  Where is she?  I’ve never met her.”

Anne:     “What?”

 Joe:        I repeat, “That’s nice.  Where is she?  I’ve never met her.”

Anne:     “Who?”

Joe:         “Uneeta”

Anne:     “Who in the Sam Hill is Uneeta?”

Joe:         “That’s what I want to know!”

Anne:     “Why?”

Joe:         “Because you are always talking about her and her sisters.”

Anne:     “What sisters?”

Joe:         “Ugotta, Weneeta and to a lesser extent, Anita.”

Anne:     “Are you confused? Should I call a doctor?”

Joe:         “No, I pay attention.  You don’t think so, but I hear when you talk about them”

Anne:     “Really?”

Joe:         “Yes.  Anita never does much.  She waits on the rest to do all of the work. 

Anne:     “Anita?”

Joe:         “Yep, and Weneeta is just about as bad.  She may have something to do, but it is later delegated to the others.”

Anne:     “The others?”

Joe:         “Uneeta and Ugotta.”

Anne:     “What language are you using now?”

Joe:         “Uneeta and Ugotta are real work horses.  They seem to get all of the jobs. 

Anne:     “What jobs?”

Joe:         “The ones you are always talking about.”

Anne:     “Indulge me.”

Joe:         “Have I not heard you say, hundreds of times, “Uneeta do this.  Ugotta do that.  Weneeta go there?  I hardly ever hear, “Anita do anything.”

Anne:     She gives me “That look”.

Joe:         I give her “That look” right back because I don’t know what she’s thinking…

Anne:     “Listen to yourself.”

Joe:         I sarcastically cock my head to one side as if listening to something.  I do this, because I am stalling.  I can tell she has the upper hand.  She now has me figured out and has an air of confidence.  I hate that!  She is about to declare “checkmate!”

Anne:     “Those are not people.”

Joe:         Puzzled look.

Anne:     “Listen carefully.  YOU NEED TO change the light bulb.  YOU GOT TO stop the leak in the bath.  WE NEED TO go to the farm and clean out the barn.  I NEED TO make sure you do everything right.”

Well the discussion went downhill from there.  Now I have a new nickname; Uneeta.

Daniel the Pirate

As the Barrel Turns...

Daniel is one month old.  Like all newborns, he is intriguing.  The attention we give to those who have only recently seen the light of day is not meant to neglect or make those older feel less significant.  We are all just very excited about their recent arrival.  I keep telling myself this as everyone sweeps past me like I don’t exist and reach out for baby Daniel. 

I got the chance to visit with Daniel one-on-one when he was 9 days old.  Mommy and GranAnne were both distracted and I snuck into his nursery for a chat.  He was awake, honest.  His blue eyes made contact with my cataracts and we bonded.  No words were necessary.  We communicated like men; grunts, facial expressions and other noises… 

Daniel likes to play Pirate.  It took me a few times to catch on, but I got the hang of it.  He distorts his face, closing his left eye and makes his mouth crooked as if to say Arr and Yarr and such other Pirate words.  Mommy would not let me put a patch over his eye, so he just closes it.  He says nothing.  He communicates silently while I interpret.  He looks at me as if to say, keep quiet or they will hear us and make us stop playing.

After several minutes pass, I realize the goal of the Pirate game.  He began to add leg and arm stretching to the facial expressions.  Then he would tense up.  Toward the end of the game his face turned red too.  He was really getting into this game!   

Then the game was over.  Aye Daniel won.  I didn’t want to play anymore.  His tummy gurgled and then avast, something gave way.  It shivered me timbers. It was time to swab the poopdeck. Ahoy, GranAnne! Do you want to hold Daniel now?  He is awake and happy (but not for long). 

Sangria Season

All summer I have I wanted to serve a Sangria option at M6.  For me, Red Texana was the obvious choice to use as the base wine.  Although not a Rioja, Red Texana is sweet, fruity and hearty.  When I first tasted it, Sangria came to mind.

I worked on developing the tasty version of my mentally concocted Sangria.  Tasting and testing to derive a flavor profile that exists only in one’s mind is quite challenging.  Hundreds of recipes are readily available on the internet. Many are similar and tasty.  However, I had my own quest for taste and clarity.

The blending and tasting process for Sangria is much like blending and tasting varietal blends.  You have to spit.  Spitting is not natural for me.  However if you don’t spit, after a few you get dizzy.  Tasting over.

I considered questions such as how much alcohol should M6 Sangria contain?  Some Sangrias are 7% alcohol and some are 12%+.  Which is better?  High alcohol tastes stronger and packs a punch, low alcohol tastes like fruit punch, but you can drink more without adverse effect.  More orange taste or less?  How much lemon is appropriate?  “Who’s on 1st? What’s on 2nd?”

Taste, slurp, breathe, spit. Repeat. Taste, slurp, breathe, swallow, realize that you should have spit.  Spit out nothing.  Repeat again.

Mix, taste, add, mix, taste again (don’t forget to spit).  Add more of something, too much? Taste. Repeat.  It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.  (…not really, I don’t HAVE to do any of this.  I just like to say that).

Next thing you know you have gallons of some concoction that you can’t duplicate.   The notes are blurred because of spilled wine.  You have to start over later.  All of your pitchers are full, so you pour it all out for a fresh start.  After a respite and with new found clarity of mind, you realize that the spilled wine did not blur your notes.  It blurred your vision.   You just wasted a lot of Sangria.  I refer to such as research expense.

Over time, our efforts were rewarded with our initial recipe.  Although we use natural fruit juice, clarity is an issue for me that I will continue to work to improve.  Locating and blending the right ingredients is a fun and rewarding pursuit.  We will keep trying to improve upon the formula. 

M6 Sangria is a cold, refreshing option.  It is fruity and thirst quenching.  Sangria reminds me of summertime outdoor gatherings with friends and family.  Barbeques and hamburger cookouts come to mind with the kids playing croquet on the back lawn.  Summertime can get rather hot here in East Texas, but maybe our Sangria in the shade can help neutralize it a bit.

With encouragement and tasting assistance from others at M6, a recipe was finalized.  We introduced it to our Tuesday Night gathering and it was well received. I hope you enjoy it too. 

A contest to develop a White or Tropical M6 Sangria is under consideration.  Look for details soon!